Biz / Tech

Shanghai shows its AI muscle during WAIC event

Zhu Shenshen
The World Artificial Intelligence Conference 2021's exhibition opened on Wednesday in Shanghai.
Zhu Shenshen

Robots play chess and offer massage services, intelligent algorithms to recognize Oracle characters, micro "AI brains" for urban management and autonomous vehicles shined at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference 2021's exhibition, which opened on Wednesday in Shanghai. 

Through the WAIC exhibition covering 40,000 square meters, Shanghai is showing its AI muscles, which is highly connected with the city's digital transformation and strategy blueprint. 

They cover Shanghai firms bringing the latest innovations, tech giants' products and applications debut in the city and local government's enhanced efforts to make the city more intelligent and safe. 

Some Oracle characters were recognized by optical character recognition (OCR) technology in the booth of the Shanghai-based IntSig Information, which released next-generation smart characters and document recognition technologies.

Shanghai shows its AI muscle during WAIC event
Zhu Shenshen / SHINE

Visitors test an AI machine that can read Oracle characters. 

It displayed a real time carbon emission reduction figure, fueled by its OCR technologies used in business cards and fiscal reports helping people use less paper. It also displayed a "digital governance brain" with data collection and analysis for the city digital transformation.

STAR-listed Ucloud, a Shanghai-based cloud service provider, introduced its "AI box" products with facial recognition, temperature measurement, picture comparison and computer vision techs. It represents convergence between cloud service and AI applications in edge devices.

During WAIC, Ucloud announced cooperation with TurningQ, a startup incubated by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. They will cooperate on quantum computing and quantum cloud platform. Quantum computing is considered one of the most promising technologies, as integrated circuit technology gradually approaches the atomic limits.

A self-driving Qomolo-brand truck, which is used in Thailand and the Middle East, attracted visitors to the show. The L5 Autonomous truck is equipped with 360-degree sensory system with traffic monitoring and driving guidance system. The company, also user of Ucloud's AI box, is seeking business opportunities domestically and in the Belt and Road regions, said Shanghai-based Westwell.

Shot by Dong Jun.
Shanghai shows its AI muscle during WAIC event
Dong Jun / SHINE

The self-driving truck was developed by a Shanghai startup. 

In 2020, Shanghai had 1,149 AI firms to establish a complete industry chain. The AI industry output reached 224.6 billion yuan (US$35.1 billion), 50 percent growth year on year. The city's three strategic sectors are AI, chips and biomedicine. 

In the city, several AI industry zones are located in Zhangjiang of Pudong New Area, West Bund in Xuhui District, Maqiao of Minhang District and Lingang zone, covering all regions of the city. 

Shot by Dong Jun.

Tech firms Huawei, SenseTime, iFlytek and Ubtech all released the latest AI innovations and products with global debuts at the WAIC event.

UBtech launched Walker X, China's first large-scale humanoid service robot. With six AI technologies and eight core functions, Walker X was demonstrated with functions like playing chess, compliant force-controlled massage, visual positioning navigation, fast walking, single-leg balance and walking on uneven ground. With full-link voice interaction, Ubtech can do work such as serving tea, pouring water, delivering things, watering flowers, wiping tables and controlling home appliances such as refrigerators and vacuum cleaners.

Shanghai shows its AI muscle during WAIC event
Dong Jun / SHINE

Ubtech's Walker X robot debut at the WAIC event.

It's a "breakthrough" for the Chinese service robot sector and accelerates AI applications in the robot sector, said Michael Tam, chief brand officer of Ubtech.

SenseTime, which has set up a regional headquarters in Shanghai, released its SenseAuto AR-Robobus during WAIC as its global debut. 

Featuring autonomous driving and augmented reality displays in vehicles, the new-technology bus can be operated and stopped fully automated in fixed zones with L4 autonomous technology. It will be used in commercial zones and scenic areas in cities like Wuxi and Lijiang.

Overseas giants like General Electric and Merck also displayed the latest innovations on health care and new materials. 

In Shanghai, tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and Huawei, as well as most promising AI firms such as SenseTime, Yitu and CloudWalk, have set up AI-related facilities. Chip designers like Cambricon and T-head are working on general and high-end chip development with more firms to develop applications for digital transformation in various industries. 

In Shanghai, the AI talent number hit 187,000 by July of 2020, taking a leading position nationwide. In the city, 104 AI-related degree programs have been set up by 38 universities and colleges.

In the WAIC halls, Huawei displayed its micro AI brain as an urban management system covering the Nanjing Road and neighboring commercial zones. During a recent light show on the Huangpu River, 3.4 million people visited the zone over a period of five days. The AI brain system smartly "reacted" to huge traffic and sudden heavy rain to protect visitors. 

Also today, Shanghai and Huawei announced the second phase of micro AI brain system construction, covering AI and cloud applications on public security, environment and public facilities. In the second phase of construction and future upgrades, the micro AI brain will cover communities, streets and shopping centers.The AI brain has been used in 12 smart city scenes and with about 58 IT partners.

Shanghai shows its AI muscle during WAIC event
Ti Gong

Shanghai and Huawei will continue cooperation on micro AI brain. 

Ucloud displayed "safety house" cloud services used in Shanghai's official insurance program Huhuibao, which debuted this year to cover 19 million local citizens. The sensitive data is protected in the cloud "safety house" while various sides can access analysis results only (without accessing data directly). 

With platforms like WAIC to woo talent and investors and boost communications and cooperation, Shanghai will develop AI in innovation, investment, platform and policy breakthroughs as a city-level strategy. By 2025, the city's AI industry output will hit 400 billion yuan, double the 2020 level.

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